Physician burnout costs up to $17B a year, task force says
- Physician burnout is taking a huge financial toll on hospitals and health systems — to the tune of $1.7 billion a year among doctors employed at hospitals, according to the National Taskforce for Humanity in Healthcare, which launched earlier this month.
- When burnout-related turnover among all U.S. physicians is considered, the costs could be as high as $17 billion, according to a paper released by the group, which is made up of doctors, nurses and other healthcare groups.
- Nurse burnout compounds the problem, annually sapping $9 billion from hospitals and $14 billion from the healthcare industry overall.
That burnout is a big problem is well known. In a recent Medscape survey, nearly two-thirds of U.S. doctors said they felt burned out, depressed or both. More troubling still, one-third of respondents said such feelings affected their relations with patients. In another study, one in five doctors reported they’ll reduce clinical hours over the next two years and one in 50 said they plan to quit medicine for a different career.
According to the task force, burnout results in higher turnover and error rates, as well as poorer outcomes and patient satisfaction leading to lower payments for services.
The paper suggests organizations create a “human-centered” culture and query clinical teams before and after deploying new technologies to see if they eased or increased their workload.
The challenge comes as the U.S. faces a potential doctor shortage in the coming decade. A recent analysis by the Association of American Medical Colleges projects the shortage will reach 121,300 by 2030. Major shortfalls are projected in non-primary care specialties, surgery and psychiatry.
Some organizations are appointing chief wellness officers to address these and other workplace issues. For example, the CWO at Southern California Permanente Medical Group (SCPMG) has spearheaded flexible work schedules and peer-to-peer support. Specified teams help physicians prioritize administrative tasks and hand off clerical work when possible.
“You have to take a very holistic approach,” Edward Ellison, executive medical director and chairman of SCPMG, told Healthcare Dive in an interview earlier this year. “It starts with culture, but it’s also about the practical, tactical time in your day.”
Others, including Cleveland Clinic, also employ CWOs. And the trend is growing. Last summer, Stanford Medicine became the first academic medical center in the U.S. to designate a CWO.